Valentine's Day

9 Things You Should Know About Champagne & Sparkling Wine

published Feb 13, 2015
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Thinking of picking up a bottle of bubbly this weekend? Like chocolate, Champagne gets lumped in with the tropes of Valentine’s Day, but hey — I will take any opportunity to drink more Champagne. Just don’t stop after the holiday.

Consider Valentine’s Day this year an opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of sparkling wine and Champagne. Do you know what Champagne really is, and how to open a bottle the elegant way? Read on for that and more, including the best foods to serve with Champagne (spoiler: everything).

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

1. Not all sparkling wine is Champagne.

“Champagne” is often used as a catch-all term for sparkling wine, but this is technically not correct. Champagne is a specific sort of sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France, and legally, only wines from this region made with the Méthode Champenoise qualify as Champagne.

Here at Kitchn we try to be careful to call bubbly simply sparkling wine unless we’re talking specifically about French Champagne.

More about Champagne:

Bubbles Galore! Champagne & Sparkling Wines for Any Holiday Celebration

2. Champagne is expensive, but bubbly doesn’t have to be.

Champagne, due to its fabled reputation and its protected status in the French wine ecosystem, tends to be expensive. But there are less expensive sparkling wines made all over the world, each with their own characteristics and flavors. Some of the most popular include:

  • Cava from Spain
  • Prosecco from Veneto, Italy
  • Asti and Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont, Italy
  • Sekt from Germany and Austria
  • Crémant from other regions of France

3. For Champagne taste on a budget, try Crémant!

For a less expensive wine with the fine bubbles and more complex, toasty flavors of Champagne, I often turn to Crémant. Seven regions in France produce this wine and they use the same method that is used to produce Champagne. I especially enjoy Crémant d’Alsace, from the Alsace region.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

4. To open bubbly, use a towel.

Once you have your bubbly in hand, do you know the best way to open it? Be chic and pop it quietly, like a pro. Here’s how.

5. You don’t need Champagne flutes.

Flutes look fancy, but they’re not necessary. They also aren’t even the best glass for drinking Champagne and bubbly. They preserve bubbles, but you can’t get your nose in to fully appreciate the aromas. Many sommeliers are simply recommending white wine glasses for the fullest enjoyment of sparkling wine.

More on Champagne glasses: Coupe d’État: The Rise & Fall of the Champagne Flute at PUNCH

6. Bubbly isn’t just for toasts. Drink it with dinner!

Champagne is so much more than a celebratory toast. Its fine bubbles and flavors of toast and citrus make it an ideal pairing for so many dishes. It’s wonderful with rich pasta dishes, like pasta carbonara. It’s fabulous with pizza. Try it with any meal where you’d serve a white wine, and enjoy the way the bubbles fizz over your palate between bites. And don’t forget: it’s ideal with cheese.

7. Bubbly makes the easiest, fanciest cocktails.

If you have a fine Champagne in your hand, I hope you’re drinking it straight up. But if you want to try something fancy with a more modest bottle, Prosecco and other sparkling wines make delicious cocktails.

Add bitters for a classic Champagne cocktail. A spoonful of elderflower liqueur makes a popular St. Germain sipper. If you’re snuggled up with Downton Abbey this weekend, try a Lady Edith sparkler (with bitter grapefruit, naturally). Or just go all out and offer a sparkling wine bar at your next soiree.

  • Why You Should Have a Sparkling Wine Bar at Your Next Cocktail Party

8. You can bring bubbly back to life with a raisin.

Did you leave the bubbly out overnight accidentally? Want to perk it back up for a mimosa? All you need is a raisin. It’s all in the wrinkles.

9. No, a silver spoon will not preserve your bubbles.

Sorry — it just doesn’t work.

Why You Should Have a Sparkling Wine Bar at Your Next Cocktail Party (Image credit: Kristin Teig)

You drinking bubbly this weekend? Valentine’s Day is only one excuse; we try to have a bottle of something sparkly on hand as often as possible. What are your favorite buys in sparkling wine?